Fiction Reviews

Rayguns Over Texas

(2013) Richard Klaw (editor), FACT Inc., US$16.99, pbk, 332pp, ISBN 978-0-989-27060-1


The 2013 World Science Fiction Convention, LoneStarCon 3, was held in San Antonio, Texas and to celebrate Texan SF writing the editor put together this book of short stories, mostly commissioned specially. It was on sale at the convention and, presumably, can be obtained from the publishers and specialist bookshops. Being there at the time, it seemed churlish to turn down the opportunity to add something a little different to my bookshelves.

The collection opens with a foreword by Bruce Sterling, an introduction by the editor, and the short essay 'Books Are My Thing: Adventures in Texas Science Fiction' by Scott A. Cupp. It ends with several appendices on Texan writers and the like. One question, of course, is what makes a writer Texan? For the purposes of this collection, it means someone who has lived and written in Texas for a substantial length of time.

In 'Babylon Moon' Matthew Bay takes us to a future where several all-powerful entities have found us and clearly, from the general way the people talk and behave, the arrival of these entities has had a dramatic effect on society. In this story a small band of explorers are taken by the entity Babylon to explore a strange moon in another part of the universe.

'Texas Died for Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine' by Stina Leicht tells of a blooming office romance, the only problem being that the heroine of the story is not, legally speaking, a person but a clone, a possession of the company she works for. She has no rights, not even for an evening out. A worrying thought for our future.

Michael Moorcock’s 'The Nostalgia Differential' is a Jerry Cornelius tale. As is typical of such stories, it consists of small vignettes as the characters jump around in time and place. Although I have read and enjoyed much of Moorcock’s works, the Jerry Cornelius stories have often left me bemused as to what the story was about and this is no exception.

In 'Novel Properties of Certain Complex Alkaloids' Lawrence Person introduces us to a couple of guys who enjoy creating and experiencing the latest in designer drugs. Their latest creation gives them a take on reality that they really were not expecting.

Joe R. Lansdale’s 'Rex' is a simple story of a boy, his dog, and the alien who crash-lands nearby. We soon find out who is nice and who is not, and the ending has a poetic neatness.

'The Atmosphere Man' by Nicky Drayden asks a simple question - what do you get your wife for your anniversary? It has to be something really special and in a time when mankind has spread out to the stars, that might just be a breath from home.

Barry Denton’s 'La Bamba Boulevard' is set on Hollywood Boulevard as a Buddy Holly fan waits for one of his musical heroes to get his star set in the pavement of the Walk Of Fame. Whilst there, he meets a Ritchie Valens look-alike who seems to know much more than you would expect.

In 'Operators are Standing By' Rhonda Eudaly takes us into a telephone sales centre; not any old call centre but one that caters for many races on many planets. Shift leader Glornash has been noticed by management and offered promotion, but only if she is truly dedicated to the company.

Don Webb’s 'The Art of Absence' tells of an aging archaeologist who wants to make one last, truly meaningful discovery and journeys to Mars to do so. Of course, her ideas on what is truly meaningful are not necessarily the same as other archaeologists.

'An Afternoon’s Nap, or: Five Hundred Years Ahead' is a reprint of Aurelia Hadley Mohl’s story which was first published in 1865. Having taken an afternoon nap out in his meadow, John Langschlaf wakes to find that five hundred years have passed. The countryside surrounding his house is now a beautiful city and his house has been preserved as an historical monument. He soon finds a local gentleman who explains the new world to him, complete with instant communication and rapid travel anywhere in the world, and the many changes and advancements of society; indeed, it seems that in this future day of enlightenment everyone lives a most wonderful life. A charming story and gently written.

In 'Grey Goo and You' Derek Austin Johnson uses a series of 'web pages' to describe the events following an unfortunate occurrence in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Fullerdyne Company wish to assure us that the events were entirely unforeseeable and they are doing everything possible to contain the situation and will of course compensate everyone for the loss of income, property, and life.

Aaron Allston’s 'Defenders of Beeman County' is a tale of shoot first and ask questions later, if at all, and this time it proves to be the right approach. The alien invaders had not anticipated the direct approach to policing employed by the local sheriff.

'Sovereign Wealth' by Chris N. Brown tells of a financier who concludes that he needs a few further enhancements if he is to continue profiting from the big deals.

In 'Jump The Black' Marshall Ryan Maresca describes just how far some people will go to get a better job or, in a world with hardly any employment since the arrival of alien races, any job at all.

Neal Barrett, Jr. tells a story of interactions with aliens in 'Timeout'. The imagery is interesting though very strange; the aliens, if not the world, work in a way most unusual to us.

Sanford Allen has set 'Pet Rock' on a survey ship returning from checking out a new planet. As they start their journey home, the science officer begins her examination of the stone sample they were sent to collect. The thing about these stones is that they appear to move of their own volition, and the planet does not want to loose any of her children.

'Take a Left at the Cretaceous' by Mark Finn is set a little while after a fault in time has opened up. The asteroid that hit the Yucatan Peninsular all those millions of years ago did more than kill the dinosaurs, it opened a permanent gateway that allows them to wander into our time. A T-Rex making its way through the modern dessert is not good news, and just how are they getting past the Rangers and their perimeter defences?

Jessica Reisman’s 'The Chambered Eye' takes place in a travelling circus. Like the rest of her family, young Sebira is a seer, specially bred with the genetic mutations necessary to increase her skill at reading people and 'predicting' outcomes for them. As puberty hits, so her skills become much more powerful - true prediction of the future.

In 'Best Energies' Josh Rountree tells of an alternative history whereby the discovery of the Immortality Pool and the power of its Water means that a privileged few will live for ever. George Washington is still with us and has become King of the United States, likewise Sam Houston is, yet again, president of the Republic of Texas, and aspects of European history have taken a different path. Albert Einstein, who understands the true nature of the Pool, has a plan to set things back on the 'correct' path.

As with any collection, there are bound to be some stories which appealed more than others. Generally I enjoyed this book and there are a number of interesting ideas, though I found a few of the stories a little weird. In order to bring out the strangeness or alieness of a different future, an author will sometimes try to create that sense of difference by writing as if from a different perspective than our normal one. Often this works, especially in a novel whereby the reader gets the chance to become immersed in the differences and begins to grasp their significance, but not always. It can be especially problematical in a short story and in a couple of these I just could not see what the author was seeing (maybe I am just slowing down?). Mostly, though, the stories worked well for me and reminded me that a good short story means that an idea can be introduced and then left with the reader to ponder upon.

At the start Bruce Sterling assured us that there is not, in fact, a single raygun to be found within these pages. This proved to be slightly wrong; I found one - but why quibble? And what is wrong with rayguns anyway?

Peter Tyers

[Up: Fiction Reviews Index | SF Author: Website Links | Home Page: Concatenation]

[One Page Futures Short Stories | Recent Site Additions | Most Recent Seasonal Science Fiction News]

[Updated: 14.4.30 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy]